Being severely disabled would rule out many people from having a bar- or batmitzvah, but it didn’t stop 13-year-old Ben Dawson from celebrating his coming-of-age ceremony with his sisters at Finchley Progressive Synagogue, North-West London.
Ben, who has quadriplegia, cortical visual impairment, epilepsy and global development delay, joined his triplet sisters Josie and Rachel on the bimah last month.
While the girls read their Torah portions, he managed to interpret Psalm 150 by pressing a series of buttons on a “switch toy” which activated recordings of the different instruments described in the psalm which should be played in God’s honour.
Miriam Bayfield, the rabbi officiating at the ceremony, said: “What he was doing was engaging with a Jewish text in the only way that he can and that is through music. He had learned to respond to the music by pressing a button which took him a year to learn in the same way that the girls had to learn to read from Torah.
“And in the same way that the girls taught the community something about their portions, he was in his way teaching that psalm to the community. It brought the psalm to life and showed them the ways in which we can praise God.”
Ben’s father, Robin Dawson, said: “There was not a dry eye in the house.Those who attended the ceremony said they were ‘honoured’ to have been there.”
Susan, Ben’s mother, said: “We didn’t know whether he would play it or not but he was just amazing. He was thrilled, delighted and energised.”